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Traditional Medicine


Traditional medicine has always existed in Myanmar, and was handed down from one generation to another throughout Bagan, Pinya, Inwa and Konbaung eras.

After colonial rule in 1885, the role of Myanmar traditional medicine diminished gradually as it was not encouraged by the British. But some patriotic traditional physicians did their best to preserve their age-old profession. During the Second World War, when western medicine was scarce and unavailable, most of the people had to resort to traditional medicine and came to realise its efficacy.

But it was not until 1953 that the Myanmar Indigenous Medicine Act was passed in the Parliament, allowing a number of dispensaries practicing traditional medicine to open in Yangon and Mandalay. Traditional Medicine has become popular again over the past few decades as the government of Myanmar encourages its application and regards it as an integral component of the overall health care system.

Though there are a number of different methods and systems currently practised in Myanmar traditional medicine, it can be generally divided into four main components:

1. The Desana system
This is based on natural phenomenon such as heat and cold. The concept behind this method is largely dependent on the Buddhist philosophy, with the therapeutic use of herbal and mineral compounds and diet.

2. The Bethitzza system
This system is based on Ayurvedic concepts with extensive use of herbal and mineral compounds to establish balance among the three Dosas, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

3. The Astrological system
This is based on the calculations of zodiac of stars, planets and the time of birth and age. These calculations are linked to prescribed dietary practices.

4. The Vezzadara system
This system is largely dependent on meditation and practices of alchemy. The drug preparations are derived from heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and poisonous substances such as arsenic and its compounds. They are converted into inert substances by a series of chemical processes in order to obtain supernatural powers.

There are two 50-bed traditional medicine hospitals in Yangon and Mandalay and ten 16-bed hospitals in other parts of the country, all operated by the Ministry of Health. About 8,600 traditional medicine practitioners have registered under the Traditional Medical Council Law enacted in 2000, and there are 4,728 registered items of drugs and 805 licensed manufacturers in Myanmar.

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